This shiny black piece of hard plastic came with a small handwritten note explaining that:
‘This phenolic rod was given to me by H.V. Potter, Chairman of Bakelite Ltd. He said it was made circa 1918 by Damard Lacquer Co and was an experiment into phenolic resins and moulding materials. It was cured by increasing the temperature of the oven over a period of 24 hours.’
With further investigation I was able to establish that the Damard Lacquer Company was formed in 1910, in Birmingham.
At that time Birmingham was the centre of the UK's brassware industry where durable lacquers were in demand for coating brass to prevent tarnishing. Responding to the demand for lacquers in America, the company set up another factory in New York in 1912, but this was closed at the onset of WWI with patent litigation threatened by Bakeland, the inventor of Bakelite, being another possible contributory factor. Subsequent agreements with Bakeland allowed Damard to continue to develop lacquers and to produce laminated sheet for electrical insulations and resins for brake linings. In 1927 a new company was formed comprising the Damard Lacquer Co., Mouldensite Ltd., and Redmanol Ltd., to develop Bakeland's phenol formaldehyde patents in England. That company was Bakelite Ltd. through which this phenolic rod was eventually donated to the museum.
This unassuming object is a bit of a gem. It dates back to
the early days of the development of wholly synthetic plastics, so whilst it is
not the most photogenic of objects, it is a rare and tangible link with those
early pioneers of plastics materials production.